A New Tool That Can Help Firms Weather The Coronavirus

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Lateral Link can quickly help law firms during this COVID-19 crisis by supplying short term interim attorneys who are Top 25 grads with major Am Law 200 experience who work remotely on an hourly basis on the most sophisticated litigations and transactions. These interim attorneys used to work at law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis, Gibson Dunn, Skadden Arps, and other top-tier firms. These are the same attorneys who were once billed out at $800 per hour as Biglaw firm associates and partners, and as these elite lawyers have been increasingly working as contract attorneys given their preference for flexible schedules, legal departments can access their skills and expertise at a relatively low cost. And because of their pedigree, you can still bill their clients at firm rate. 

There are many good reasons for law firms to embrace this shift especially given the current climate of the legal market. 

1) Fill Needs Quickly. On average, the permanent lateral process takes months from the identification of a need, to the onboarding of the associate. As the market conditions quickly fluctuate, using experienced interim attorneys allows firms to scale to meet their immediate demand in any practice, without the comparative lag and permanence of a traditional lateral search. In a volatile market, flexibility and swiftness are key.  

2) Lower Costs For The Same Experience. Interim attorneys require a significantly reduced commitment of overhead than their permanent counterparts. When engaged through a high-end and trusted staffing company, law firms are not responsible for the attorneys’ healthcare costs, payroll taxes, or equipment, and most firm malpractice policies cover “contractors” at no additional cost. Because interim attorneys are paid by the billable hour – no down time, no hours written off – they are guaranteed to generate a significant ROI with no downside risk.

3) Satisfy Client Needs. Senior attorneys with partner or counsel experience are widely represented among the interim attorney ranks. This means that rather than referring work away (and even when pitching for work), firms can temporarily add high-level expertise in practice areas or industries they otherwise could not service. As we are seeing so much market instability, interim attorneys allow firms to quickly scale up their offerings in countercyclical practices to hedge against losses in other practices and avoid a layoff crisis like we saw in 2009. 

4) Increase Profits Even In A Downturn. New revenues are generated not just from the interim attorney’s time, but also from the hours the firm’s permanent lawyers spend on the engagement. This income is amortized over the firm’s fixed costs (i.e., its permanent lawyers), making the firm more profitable as a whole. The same analysis applies to blending rates. Should we enter a fully-fledged economic downturn, it is in the firm’s interest to continue service to a cost-sensitive client even when it doesn’t fit within the firm’s billing structure (for example, when failure to do so could cost the firm larger engagements with this client). Adding interim attorneys allows for a lower blended rate while still providing the level of experience needed for the matter, and generating work for other members of the firm. The pedigree of our high caliber interim attorneys also allows the firm to bill at an equal rate to their permanent associates as the client is getting commiserate experience and value. 

Permanent lateral attorneys will always have an important place in the market. Savvy firms, however, can engage interim attorneys now to add flexibility in these uncertain times. As workflow remains somewhat unpredictable, firms will do well to hedge their bets on practice growth by strategically utilizing the talent pool of first-tier interim attorneys now at their disposal. As a premier provider of interim talent, we are happy to discuss your hiring needs to help you weather whatever storm comes your way. Please reach out to Jaclyn Genchi if you are interested in utilizing our flexible staffing offerings.